This time of year in Seattle is when Seafair takes place, the obligatory big annual civic festival that no self-respecting town of any size would be caught dead without. The highlights of this show annually are the General Motors Cup hydroplane races on Lake Washington, and a performance by the Blue Angels that amazes thousands of spectators and makes a mess of traffic for everyone else (for safety reasons, one of the major floating bridges across Lake Washington is closed during the performance.) For those who wish to express their civic pride from afar, the major events of Seafair (the Hydro races, the Blue Angels and the Torchlight Parade, which takes place approximately a week before) are televised. I seem to recall at one point that someone made the astute observation that in order for something to be news in this area, someone either has to be killed or it has to disrupt traffic. Maybe the bridge closures aren't for safety reasons after all, but are intended to make the whole thing newsworthy?
Then again, we also have a cable channel called Northwest Cable News here as well, which is a 24-hour news channel devoted stories in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. It seems to me that there just about isn't enough news in this region to fill up a 24-hour news channel by itself, but they manage somehow. Of course, they also seem to have an uncanny ability to launch into "Special Northwest Storm Coverage" at the drop of a hat if it starts to get a little bit windy somewhere in Eastern Washington (as long as it results in a traffic jam), or some oil tanker truck catches on fire on I-90, or somethign like that. They have an amazing ability to latch onto the smallest bit of something vaguely newsworthy, and immediately launch into five hours of exclusive coverage. But I digress.
For the most part, we've been content to just catch bits and pieces of the events on the TV coverage, and if we're lucky maybe get a quick look at the Blue Angels as they fly by near our house during their performance. This year, for little apparent reason other than having acquired free VIP tickets, I went to the actual events at the park. Since parking in that neighborhood would be somewhat close to impossible, we took a shuttle over from a conveniently large Boeing parking lot a few miles away. It had been quite a while since I had taken a ride on a city bus, and the one we rode on was one of the newer ones in the fleet. In spite of this, the ride was unusually bumpy. I couldn't figure out why. It almost seemed as if the bus driver had forgotten to take the snow chains off six months ago. The roads maty have been partially to blame for this condition, but I'm starting to wonder if buses are actually built to make all sorts of clattering noises. Maybe that's their way of telling you that your buses are old and decrepit, and need to be replaced? Of course, when the buses in question are essentially brand new, you have to wonder.
Anyway, after surviving the bus ride over without too many parts falling out and most of the loose change I had still in my pocket, we arrived at the site... Or so we thought. As the driver stopped to let us all out, a Metro supervisor frantically stopped the bus driver, and informed her that this wasn't the place we were supposed be let off the bus. This wouldn't have been a big deal if not for the fact that the doors had been opened and people already began to get off. They literally made everyone who got off get back on the bus so we could be unloaded at the "proper" location. When all was said and done, we arrived at the unloading zone five minutes later... A BLOCK AWAY! So after all this, they made everyone get back on the bus, wait for traffic to clear, drive one block further away from our destination, and then get off there. And they wonder why people around here don't like riding the bus as they keep campaigning for tax hikes to fund their operation.
After hiking the not insignificant distance from the bus drop-off to the actual location of the event, we found the VIP area for which we had tickets. We arrived at the Southwest Airlines "suite" (a fenced-off area with a large tent and some tables and chairs set up outside) and found what may be some of the nicest food ever associated with Southwest Airlines: Hot dogs and hamburgers. The star attraction at the tent,at least for the vast majority of attendees in the VIP area, was probably the free beer. Although I don't drink, another of the items available at the tent struck me as being one of those "Now why didn't I think of that?" things: Canned bottled water. Standard non-carbonated filtered spring water, just in an aluminum can rather than a bottle. For some reason I can't quite ascertain right offhand, that sounds just wrong.
I drank four cans of the stuff.
Since the Blue Angels show was over, and most of the stuff outside the area we were in was intended to get us to buy new cars, we spent a good deal of time staring out at the lake, watching buoys bob up and down in the water, and occasionally seeing a boat pass by at unsafe speed, leaving a giant rooster tail. In the grand scheme of things in sports, boat racing tends to be somewhere fairly low on the popularity scale. If it weren't for the fact that they can occasionally provide material for one of those "America's Funniest Sports Injuries" shows that various cable channels seem to be so fond of, few people would pay much attention to the sport at all. However, among racing vehicles, hydroplanes are a rather interesting creature. What you have in a typical hydroplane is a fiberglass shell with a large turbine engine on the back, and a few sponsor decals holding the thing together. It's the kind of hobby that generally requires a callous disregard for personal safety, a whole lot of money, and possibly a few accidental bumps to the head earlier in life for someone to engage in. These boats are capable of well over 140MPH in good conditions, and there seems to be no shortage of people who would be willing to try it out.
Anyway, since this entry has taken approximately four days to write from start to end, I figure I better post it at some point.